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What You Need to Know about Fortified Homes™

It’s hard to drive 10 minutes in Baldwin County and not see a developing neighborhood or signs about available new builds. There are plenty of perks to buying a new home, including the possibility of lowering your insurance with Fortified™ certification. But did you know it’s possible to achieve a level of this certification, even with a preexisting home? Let’s take a look at Fortified Homes™ to see how it protects your property and saves you money!

1. What does it mean to be Fortified™?

Fortified™ is a nationally recognized building method that goes beyond building codes to strengthen residential and commercial buildings against specific natural hazards such as high winds and hurricanes. Fortified™ standards are based on more than 20 years of scientific research and real-world testing by IBHS.

2. What are the Levels of Fortified Home™?

There are 3 levels of a Fortified Home™: Roof, Silver & Gold. As you go up a level, you are enhancing your property with additional building standards on top of what is already required in the previous level. Fortified Roof™ Previously known as Fortified Bronze™, this is the entry-level Fortified™ designation, which was modified to focus more directly on strengthening roofs. A Fortified Roof™ can be applied to an existing home whenever you’re ready to update your existing roof.

Fortified Roof™ is about sealing off the roof from damaging moisture and strengthening it from high winds. This can be seen in the building process to receive this certification. Nailing the entire roof deck with certain nails and amount of nails, sealing the roof deck, and high wind rated shingles are just a few of the requirements.

If you’re looking to re-roof with a Fortified Roof™, start with a local Fortified™ Roofer. They will know the correct building and documentation processes needed to get you the certification. Fortified Silver™ Fortified Silver™ is the next level of Fortified Homes™ and builds off Fortified Roof™. In addition to everything done for the previous level, Silver also focuses on strengthening overhangs, gables, openings, and attached structures (primarily porches and carports). Any overhang or gable greater than a certain size must be retrofitted with bracing that strengthens this part of the home. Openings – windows, exterior doors, and garage doors – need to be impact-protected with either approved coverings (like hurricane shutters) or the structure itself (i.e. upgrading your garage door to a missile level D impact-rated one).

One of the most important things to point out at this level is that any new attachment to your home could potentially affect your certification. The best thing you can do is work with a Fortified™ Builder in order to get or keep your home certified at Fortified Silver™. Fortified Gold™ Fortified Gold™ is the last level of the Fortified™ program and builds off Fortified Roof™ and Fortified Silver™. The complexity of this level makes it very difficult for an existing home to achieve certification, and for new construction, a professional engineer needs to be involved from the beginning.

The engineer is determining a continuous load path for the home. This means the home must be reinforced in the following ways: foundation to wall, wall below to wall above, and wall to rafters. There must be set plans that a licensed engineer has signed off on in order to receive Fortified Gold™ certification.

3. How much can you save with a Fortified Home™?

Due to the fact that damage is less likely with a Fortified Home™, insurance companies provide significant discounts for these certifications, as it also saves them money. Additionally, legislation has been passed in the state of Alabama that requires insurance companies to provide discounts on homeowner’s insurance for owners of a Fortified Home™. BUT in order to receive this discount, you must be able to supply a Fortified™ certificate to your insurance company. So, before you spend more on your dream home due to insurance discounts, make sure you are getting a certificate!

An analysis conducted by the AL Department of Insurance indicates that structures mitigated under IBHS standards should earn discounts from 35-60%. According to Nathan Lippincott of Knockout Home Inspections, the average discounts per level that he sees in Baldwin County are about 20-30% for Fortified Roof™, 30-40% for Fortified Silver™, and 40-50% for Fortified Gold™.

4. How long does the designation last?

Any level of the Fortified™ program comes with certification that lasts for 5 years. If you are currently living in a Fortified Home™, make sure you know when renewal is required. Your home has to be re-designated every 5 years in order to keep certification and insurance discounts. A Fortified™ Evaluator can help you with that process.

5. How does having a Fortified Home™ affect your Property Value?

According to “Estimating the Effect of Fortified Home™ Construction on Home Resale Value” – a study done by PhD’s Sebastian Awondo, Harris Hollans, Lawrence Powell, and Chip Wade – building a storm-resistant, Fortified Home™ increases the value of a property by nearly 7-10% and mitigates potential damage. Basically, the benefits of sturdy construction through the Fortified Home™ program greatly outweigh the cost of building or renovating.

How many Fortified™ designations have been awarded?

As of April 2023, 50,000 Fortified™ designations have been awarded nationwide; more than half of those are in the state of Alabama. Our state is leading the way on this high standard of building, and it is becoming the norm for any new construction in our county. As you search for your next home or consider updating your current one, factor in the benefits of a Fortified Home™. Extra-safe building process in a hurricane-prone area of the country? Check. Discounts on homeowner’s insurance? Check. Increased likelihood to sell sooner and for more money? Check. Fortified™ at any level checks all the boxes.



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